Picking six spinners shows Sri Lanka’s intentions


Leg-spinner Malinga Bandara has been named in a pool of 20 for the limited overs series against Australia.

by Rex Clementine

Not too long ago, when Sri Lankan cricket teams toured down under, their Australian hosts used to give them green tops. During the Benson & Hedges tri-nation competition, if West Indies were the third participant along with Sri Lanka, the Australia Cricket Board ensured that the West Indies took on Sri Lanka at the WACA, but their own team was spared at the World’s fastest wicket against the deadliest pace attack in the world.

This trend seemed to be changing since the new millennium. The reason being that it was thought that the paying spectators needed their money’s worth and a good contest on a sporting wicket rather than the hosts’ dominating in conditions favourable to them was promoted.

However, there were exceptions. Last year when Sri Lanka toured Australia for a three match ODI series, they reached Brisbane with a 2-0 unassailable lead having won at the MCG and SCG. It was Sri Lanka’s first ever series triumph in Australia and not wanting to be whitewashed, the Aussies provided a green top at the Gabba and won the final ODI to save face.

So when they land in Colombo early next month, they are bound to get a taste of their own medicine. Naming six specialist spinners in the initial pool of 20 for the two T-20s and the five ODIs show what course Sri Lanka want to take. When that 20 is pruned to 15, it’s a safe bet that most of the six spinners would be retained.

Ajantha Mendis was overlooked for the latter part of the England tour as the selectors opted for the leg-spin of Jeevan Mendis and the off-spin of Suraj Randiv in the final eleven. Those were the three spinners in England for the ODIs and while all three of them have been retained, Malinga Bandara returns to the side having played his last game for the country in January last year. In fact since 2007, he has played just thee ODIs for Sri Lanka.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who is one year older than Bandara was a surprise omission for the shorter versions of the game in England. Herath was picked for the World Cup and did nothing wrong during the tournament and he may have been perplexed by his omission.

Randiv became the third Sri Lankan to pick up a five wicket haul in England after Ashantha de Mel and Muttiah Muralitharan when he finished with five for 42 at Old Trafford and may have looked an automatic choice for the series against Australia. But the inclusion of another off-spinner, Sachithra Senanayake, adds some pressure on him.

While there’s no denying of the fact that spin will play a key role against the Aussies, the wickets prepared for the series need to have some life in them rather than being slow tuners.

In recent times, we have seen in the ODIs played in Sri Lanka teams struggling to score beyond 250. The spectators expect high scoring games in ODIs and wickets need to have life for this purpose.

Even in Test Matches, particularly at Galle, by the fourth day the bounce is so low that it hardly poses a threat to the batsmen and as a result the matches that Sri Lanka should have won have ended up in draws despite the presence of Muttiah Muralitharan.

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